Artist: Kuniyoshi Utagawa (1798-1861)
Title: Shutsurinryo (or Shutsurinryu) Suen
Series: The 108 Heroes of the Popular Suikoden
Publisher: Kagaya Kichiemon
Dimensions: 26 x 37.6 cm
Kuniyoshi’s commercial and artistic success came in 1827 with the series ‘The 108 Heroes of the Tale of Suikoden’. Suikoden (Water Margin) is a 14th century Chinese novel about 108 rebels and heroic bandits, very popular in Japan those days. The characters were also outlaws and brigands, seen as men of honour who would rebel against bureaucracy, a Robin-Hood-like band that made the story of a revolutionary novel with implications resenting the authority of the time.
Suen is a robber who commands a large gang of robbers along with his nephew. Kuniyoshi’s design portrays a scene when Suen, adorned with pheasant’s feathers, is fighting with Sosaku, a member of the So family. The So have stolen the horses that another Suikoden gang member bought for his companions and now Suen is helping retrieve the animals.